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Cuomo, in speech to honor MLK, announces executive order allowing parolees to vote

Governor Cuomo's Office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave a speech at the annual meeting of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, honoring the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., where he offered remedies to fix the nation’s Democratic Party.

Cuomo railed against President Donald Trump and his administration, saying they are “anti-American” and opposed to everything that King preached about. But he said the Democratic Party got it wrong in 2016.

Without mentioning the names of former President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who Cuomo’s been close to, the governor said the party “got disconnected” from the middle class. He said working people were desperate and believed Trump’s promises that they would get mills and factories back in the United States.

“There’s no economy that goes backward; it was a fantasy,” Cuomo said.

He said the Democratic Party also “under-delivered for our minority supporters.” Cuomo criticized inequalities in education in New York state, and he announced that he’s signing an executive order to allow people on parole to vote.

The governor blamed the Republican-led state Senate for rejecting a bill he proposed to make the change.

“I’m unwilling to take no for an answer,” Cuomo said to cheers. “I’m going to make it law by executive order.”

Cuomo’s opponents jumped on the executive order. His Democratic primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon, called it a “song and dance routine,” saying Cuomo enabled the Republicans, who blocked the bill, to keep control of the Senate for eight years.

“Voter suppression in New York should have ended eight years ago,” Nixon said in a statement.

Meanwhile, GOP State chair Ed Cox called the order an “outrageous power grab” and a purely political act “designed to appeal to radical primary voters and satisfy his presidential ambitions.”

“With today’s announcement of his intentions to sign an Executive Order pardoning tens of thousands of parolees across New York, Gov. Cuomo has once again shown a willingness to disregard both the limits of his office and our state’s rule of law to advance his personal agenda.                                

Assemblymember Ray Walter (R-Amherst) called the order "misguided" and "unethical."

“In a blatant attempt to gain a political advantage while being embraced by the Rev. Al Sharpton, Cuomo’s executive order would extend voting rights to over 36,000 parolees whom have yet to fully repay their debt to society," said Walter. "This is, not only a usurpation of the legislative process, but an irresponsible disregard for public safety. As the Governor presumably knows, avenues currently exist for criminals who have shown positive strides toward rehabilitation to vote through a Relief from Civil Disabilities issued by their sentencing judge."

Cuomo said he’s content to run for re-election for governor this year and will not say whether he’s running for president in 2020.

But he told the crowd that he believes New York is the most progressive state in the nation and can show the rest of the country how to do things.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.